London Pride, by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

Chapter 4

The Valley of the Shadow.

The reverend mother lingered till the beginning of summer, and it was on a lovely June evening, while the nightingales were singing in the convent garden, that the holy life slipped away into the Great Unknown. She died as a child falls asleep, the saintly grey head lying peacefully on Angela’s supporting arm, the last look of the dying eyes resting on that tender nurse with infinite love.

She was gone, and Angela felt strangely alone. Her contemporaries, the chosen friend who had been to her almost as a sister, the girls by whose side she had sat in class, had all left the convent. At twenty-one years of age, she seemed to belong to a former generation; most of the pupils had finished their education at seventeen or eighteen, and had returned to their homes in Flanders, France, or England. There had been several English pupils, for Louvain and Douai had for a century been the seminaries for English Romanists.

The pupils of to-day were Angela’s juniors, with whom she had nothing in common, except to teach English to a class of small Flemings, who were almost unteachable.

She had heard no more from her father, and knew not where or with whom he might have cast in his lot. She wrote to him under cover to her sister; but of late Hyacinth’s letters had been rare and brief, only long enough, indeed, to apologise for their brevity. Lady Fareham had been in London or at Hampton Court from the beginning of the previous winter. There was talk of the plague having come to London from Amsterdam, that the Privy Council was sitting at Sion House, instead of in London, that the judges had removed to Windsor, and that the Court might speedily remove to Salisbury or Oxford. “And if the Court goes to Oxford, we shall go to Chilton,” wrote Hyacinth; and that was the last of her communications.

July passed without news from father or sister; and Angela grew daily more uneasy about both. The great horror of the plague was in the air. It had been raging in Amsterdam in the previous summer and autumn, and a nun had brought the disease to Louvain, where she might have died in the convent infirmary but for Angela’s devoted attention. She had assisted the over-worked infirmarian at a time of unusual sickness — for there was a good deal of illness among the nuns and pupils that summer — mostly engendered of the fear lest the pestilence in Holland should reach Flanders. Doctor and infirmarian had alike praised the girl’s quiet courage, and her instinct for doing the right thing.

Remembering all the nun had told of the horrors of Amsterdam, Angela awaited with fear and trembling for news from London; and as the summer wore on, every news-letter that reached the Ursulines brought tidings of increasing sickness in the great prosperous city, which was being gradually deserted by all who could afford to travel. The Court had moved first to Hampton Court, in June, and later to Salisbury, where again the French Ambassador’s people reported strange horrors — corpses found lying in the street hard by their lodgings — the King’s servants sickening. The air of the cathedral city was tainted — though deaths had been few as compared with London, which was becoming one vast lazar-house — and it was thought the Court and Ambassadors would remove themselves to Oxford, where Parliament was to assemble in the autumn, instead of at Westminster.

Most alarming of all was the news that the Queen-mother had fled with all her people, and most of her treasures, from her palace at Somerset House — for Henrietta Maria was not a woman to fly before a phantom fear. She had seen too much of the stern realities of life to be scared by shadows; and she had neither establishment nor power in France equal to those she left in England. In Paris the daughter of the great Henry was a dependent. In London she was second only to the King; and her Court was more esteemed than Whitehall.

“If she has fled, there must be reason for it,” said the newly elected Superior, who boasted of correspondents at Paris, notably a cousin in that famous convent, the Visitandines de Chaillot, founded by Queen Henrietta, and which had ever been a centre of political and religious intrigue, the most fashionable, patrician, exalted, and altogether worldly establishment.

Alarmed at this dismal news, Angela wrote urgently to her sister, but with no effect; and the passage of every day, with occasional rumours of an increasing death-rate in London, strengthened her fears, until terror nerved her to a desperate resolve. She would go to London to see her sister; to nurse her if she were sick; to mourn for her if she were dead.

The Superior did all she could to oppose this decision, and even asserted authority over the pupil who, since her eighteenth year had been released from discipline, subject but to the lightest laws of the convent. As the great-niece and beloved child of the late Superior she had enjoyed all possible privileges; while the liberal sum annually remitted for her maintenance gave her a certain importance in the house.

And now on being told she must not go, her spirit rose against the Superior’s authority.

“I recognise no earthly power that can keep me from those I love in their time of peril!” she said.

“You do not know that they are in sickness or danger. My last letters from Paris stated that it was only the low people whom the contagion in London was attacking.”

“If it was only the low people, why did the Queen-mother leave? If it was safe for my sister to be in London it would have been safe for the Queen.”

“Lady Fareham is doubtless in Oxfordshire.”

“I have written to Chilton Abbey as well as to Fareham House, and I can get no answer. Indeed, reverend mother, it is time for me to go to those to whom I belong. I never meant to stay in this house after my aunt’s death. I have only been waiting my father’s orders. If all be well with my sister I shall go to the Manor Moat, and wait his commands quietly there. I am home-sick for England.”

“You have chosen an ill time for home-sickness, when a pestilence is raging.”

Argument could not touch the girl, whose mind was braced for battle. The reverend mother ceded with as good a grace as she could assume, on the top of a very arbitrary temper. An English priest was heard of who was about to travel to London on his return to a noble friend and patron in the north of England, in whose house he had lived before the troubles; and in this good man’s charge Angela was permitted to depart, on a long and weary journey by way of Antwerp and the Scheldt. They were five days at sea, the voyage lengthened by the almost unprecedented calm which had prevailed all that fatal summer — a weary voyage in a small trading vessel, on board which Angela had to suffer every hardship that a delicate woman can be subjected to on board ship: a wretched berth in a floating cellar called a cabin, want of fresh water, of female attendance, and of any food but the coarsest. These deprivations she bore without a murmur. It was only the slowness of the passage that troubled her.

The great city came in view at last, the long roof of St. Paul’s dominating the thickly clustered gables and chimneys, and the vessel dropped anchor opposite the dark walls of the Tower, whose form had been made familiar to Angela by a print in a History of London, which she had hung over many an evening in Mother Anastasia’s parlour. A row-boat conveyed her and her fellow-traveller to the Tower stairs, where they landed, the priest being duly provided with an efficient voucher that they came from a city free of the plague. Yes, this was London. Her foot touched her native soil for the first time after fifteen years of absence. The good-natured priest would not leave her till he had seen her in charge of an elderly and most reputable waterman, recommended by the custodian of the stairs. Then he bade her an affectionate adieu, and fared on his way to a house in the city, where one of his kinsfolk, a devout Catholic, dwelt quietly hidden from the public eye, and where he would rest for the night before setting out on his journey to the north.

After the impetuous passage through the deep, dark arch of the bridge, the boat moved slowly up the river in the peaceful eventide, and Angela’s eyes opened wide with wonder as she looked on the splendours of that silent highway, this evening verily silent, for the traffic of business and pleasure had stopped in the terror of the pestilence, like a clock that had run down. It was said by one who had seen the fairest cities of Europe that “the most glorious sight in the world, take land and water together, was to come upon a high tide from Gravesend, and shoot the bridge to Westminster;” and to the convent-bred maiden how much more astonishing was that prospect!

The boat passed in front of Lord Arundel’s sumptuous mansion, with its spacious garden, where marble statues showed white in the midst of quincunxes, and prim hedges of cypress and yew; past the Palace of the Savoy, with its massive towers, battlemented roof, and double line of mullioned windows fronting the river; past Worcester House, where Lord Chancellor Hyde had been living in a sober splendour, while his princely mansion was building yonder on the Hounslow Road, or that portion thereof lately known as Piccadilly. That was the ambitious pile of which Hyacinth had written, a house of clouded memories and briefest tenure; foredoomed to vanish like a palace seen in a dream; a transient magnificence, indescribable; known for a little while opprobriously as Dunkirk House, the supposed result of the Chancellor’s too facile assistance in the surrender of that last rag of French territory. The boat passed before Rutland House and Cecil House, some portion of which had lately been converted into the Middle Exchange, the haunt of fine ladies and Golconda of gentlewomen milliners, favourite scene for assignations and intrigues; and so by Durham House, where in the Protector Seymour’s time the Royal Mint had been established; a house whose stately rooms were haunted by tragic associations, shadows of Northumberland’s niece and victim, hapless Jane Grey, and of fated Raleigh. Here, too, commerce shouldered aristocracy, and the New Exchange of King James’s time competed with the Middle Exchange of later date, providing more milliners, perfumers, glovers, barbers, and toymen, and more opportunity for illicit loves and secret meetings.

Before Angela’s eyes those splendid mansions passed like phantom pictures. The westering sunlight showed golden above the dark Abbey, while she sat silent, with awe-stricken gaze, looking out upon this widespread city that lay chastened and afflicted under the hand of an angry God. The beautiful, gay, proud, and splendid London of the West, the new London of Covent Garden, St. James’s Street, and Piccadilly, whose glories her sister’s pen had depicted with such fond enthusiasm, was now deserted by the rabble of quality who had peopled its palaces, while the old London of the East, the historic city, was sitting in sackcloth and ashes, a place of lamentations, a city where men and women rose up in the morning hale and healthy, and at night-fall were carried away in the dead-cart, to be flung into the pit where the dead lay shroudless and unhonoured.

How still and sweet the summer air seemed in that sunset hour; how placid the light ripple of the incoming tide; how soothing even the silence of the city! And yet it all meant death. It was but a few months since the fatal infection had been brought from Holland in a bundle of merchandise: and, behold, through city and suburbs, the pestilence had crept with slow and stealthy foot, now on this side of a street, now on another. The history of the plague was like a game at draughts, where man after man vanishes off the board, and the game can only end by exhaustion.

“See, mistress, yonder is Somerset House,” said the boatman, pointing to one of the most commanding façades in that highway of palaces. “That is the palace which the Queen-mother has raised from the ashes of the ruins her folly made, for the husband who loved her too well. She came back to us no wiser for years of exile — came back with her priests and her Italian singing-boys, her incense-bearers and golden candlesticks and gaudy rags of Rome. She fled from England with the roar of cannon in her ears, and the fear of death in her heart. She came back in pride and vain-glory, and boasted that had she known the English people better, she would never have gone away; and she has squandered thousands in yonder palace, upon floors of coloured woods, and Italian marbles — the people’s money, mark you, money that should have built ships and fed sailors; and she meant to end her days among us. But a worse enemy than Cromwell has driven her out of the house that she made beautiful for herself; and who knows if she will ever see London again?”

“Then those were right who told me that it was for fear of the plague her Majesty left London?” said Angela.

“For what else should she flee? She was loth enough to leave, you may be sure, for she had seated herself in her pride yonder, and her Court was as splendid, and more looked up to than Queen Catherine’s. The Queen-mother is the prouder woman, and held her head higher than her son’s wife has ever dared to hold hers; yet there are those who say King Charles’s widow has fallen so low as to marry Lord St. Albans, a son of Belial, who would hazard his immortal soul on a cast of the dice, and lose it as freely as he has squandered his royal mistress’s money. She paid for Jermyn’s feasting and wine-bibbing in Paris, ’tis said, when her son and his friends were on short commons.”

“You do wrong to slander that royal lady,” remonstrated Angela. “She is of all widows the saddest and most desolate — ever the mark of evil fortune. Even in the glorious year of her son’s restoration sorrow pursued her, and she had to mourn a daughter and a son. She is a most unhappy lady.”

“You would scarcely say as much, young madam, had you seen her in her pomp and power yonder. And as for Lord St. Albans, if he is not her husband —! Well, thou art a young innocent thing — so I had best hold my peace. Both palaces are empty and forsaken, both Whitehall and Somerset House. The rats and the spiders can take their own pleasure in the rooms that were full of music and dancing, card-playing and feasting, two or three months ago. Why, there was no better sight in London, after the dead-cart, than to watch the train of carriages and horsemen, carts and wagons, upon any of the great high-roads, carrying the people of London away to the country, as if the whole city had been moving in one mass like a routed army.”

“But in palaces and noblemen’s houses surely there would be little danger?” said Angela. “Plagues and fevers are the outcome of hunger and uncleanliness, and all such evils as the poor have to suffer.”

“Nay, but the pestilence that walketh in darkness is no respecter of persons,” answered the grim boatman. “I grant you that death has dealt hardest with the poor who dwell in crowded lanes and alleys. But now the very air reeks with poison. It may be carried in the folds of a woman’s gown, or among the feathers of a courtier’s hat. They are wise to go who can go. It is only such as I, who have to work for my grandchildren’s bread, that must needs stay.”

“You speak like one who has seen better days,” said Angela.

“I was a sergeant in Hampden’s regiment, madam, and went all through the war. When the King came back I had friends who stood by me, and bought me this boat. I was used to handle an oar in my boyhood, when I lived on a little bit of a farm that belonged to my father, between Reading and Henley. I was oftener on the water than on the land in those days. There are some who have treated me roughly because I fought against the late King; but folks are beginning to find out that the Brewer’s disbanded red-coats can be honest and serviceable in time of peace.”

After passing the Queen-mother’s desolate palace the boat crept along near the Middlesex shore, till it stopped at the bottom of a flight of stone steps, against which the tide washed with a pleasant rippling sound, and above which there rose the walls of a stately building facing south-west; small as compared with Somerset and Northumberland houses, midway between which it stood, yet a spacious and noble mansion, with a richly decorated river-front, lofty windows with sculptured pediments, floriated cornice, and two side towers topped with leaded cupolas, the whole edifice gilded by the low sun, and very beautiful to look upon, the windows gleaming as if there were a thousand candles burning within, a light that gave a false idea of life and festivity, since that brilliant illumination was only a reflected glory.

“This, madam, is Fareham House,” said the boatman, holding out his hand for his fee.

He charged treble the sum he would have asked half a year ago. In this time of evil those intrepid spirits who still plied their trades in the tainted city demanded a heavy fee for their labour; and it would have been hard to dispute their claim, since each man knew that he risked his life, and that the limbs which toiled to-day might be lifeless clay to-night. There was an awfulness about the time, a taste and odour of death mixed with all the common things of daily life, a morbid dwelling upon thoughts of corruption, a feverish expectancy of the end of all things, which no man can rightly conceive who has not passed through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

Angela paid the man his price without question. She stepped lightly from the boat, while he deposited her two small leather-covered trunks on the stone landing-place in front of the Italian terrace which occupied the whole length of the façade. She went up a flight of marble steps, to a door facing the river. Here she rang a bell which pealed long and loud over the quiet water, a bell that must have been heard upon the Surrey shore. Yet no one opened the great oak door; and Angela had a sudden sinking at the heart as the slow minutes passed and brought no sound of footsteps within, no scrooping of a bolt to betoken the opening of the door.

“Belike the house is deserted, madam,” said the boatman, who had moored his wherry to the landing-stage, and had carried the two trunks to the doorstep. “You had best try if the door be fastened or no. Stay!” he cried suddenly, pointing upwards, “Go not in, madam, for your life! Look at the red cross on the door, the sign of a plague-stricken house.”

Angela looked up with awe and horror. A great cross was smeared upon the door with red paint, and above it some one had scrawled the words, “Lord, have mercy upon us!”

And the sister she loved, and the children whose faces she had never seen, were within that house, sick and in peril of death, perhaps dying — or dead! She did not hesitate for an instant, but took hold of the heavy iron ring which served as a handle for the door and tried to open it.

“I have no fear for myself,” she said to the boatman; “I have nursed the sick and the fever-stricken, and am not afraid of contagion — and there are those within whom I love. Good night, friend.”

The handle of the door turned somewhat stiffly in her hand, but it did turn, and the door opened, and she stood upon the threshold looking into a vast hall that was wrapped in shadow, save for a shaft of golden light that streamed from an oval window on the staircase. Other windows there were on each side of the door, shuttered and barred.

Seeing her enter the house, the old Cromwellian shrugged his shoulders, shook his head despondently, shoved the two trunks hastily over the threshold, ran back to his boat, and pushed off.

“God guard thy young life, mistress!” he cried, and the wherry shot out into the stream.

There had been silence on the river, the silence of a deserted city at eventide; but that had seemed as nothing to the stillness of this marble-paved hall, where the sunset was reflected on the dark oak panelling in one lurid splash like blood.

Not a mortal to be seen. Not a sound of voice or footstep. A crowd of gods and goddesses in draperies of azure and crimson, purple and orange, looked down from the ceiling. Curtains of tawny velvet hung beside the shuttered windows. A great brazen candelabrum, filled with half-consumed candles, stood tall and splendid at the foot of a wide oak staircase, the banister-rail whereof was cushioned with tawny velvet. Splendour of fabric, wood and marble, colour and gilding, showed on every side; but of humanity there was no sign.

Angela shuddered at the sight of all that splendour, as if death were playing hide and seek in those voluminous curtains, or were lurking in the deep shadow which the massive staircase cast across the hall. She looked about her, full of fear, then seeing a silver bell upon the table, she took it up and rang it loudly. Upon the same carved ebony table there lay a plumed hat, a cane with an amber handle, and a velvet cloak neatly folded, as if placed ready for the master of the house, when he went abroad; but looking at these things closely, even in that dim light, she saw that cloak and hat were white with dust, and, more even than the silence, that spectacle of the thick dust on the dark velvet impressed her with the idea of a deserted house.

She had no lack of courage, this pupil of the Flemish nuns, and her footstep did not falter as she went quickly up the broad staircase until she found herself in a spacious gallery, and amidst a flood of light, for the windows on this upper or noble floor were all unshuttered, and the sunset streamed in through the lofty Italian casements. Fareham House was built upon the plan of the Hôtel de Rambouillet, of which the illustrious Catherine de Vivonne was herself at once owner and architect. The staircase, instead of being a central feature, was at the western end of the house, allowing space for an unbroken suite of rooms communicating one with the other, and terminating in an apartment with a fine oriel window looking east.

The folding doors of a spacious saloon stood wide open, and Angela entered a room whose splendour was a surprise to her who had been accustomed to the sober simplicity of a convent parlour and the cold grey walls of the refectory, where the only picture was a pinched and angular Virgin by Memling, and the only ornament a crucifix of ebony and brass.

Here for the first time she beheld a saloon for whose decoration palaces had been ransacked and churches desecrated — the stolen treasures of many an ancestral mansion, spoil of rough soldiery or city rabble, things that had been slyly stowed away by their possessors during the stern simplicity of the Commonwealth, and had been brought out of their hiding-places and sold to the highest bidder. Gold and silver had been melted down in the Great Rebellion; but art treasures would not serve to pay soldiers or to buy ammunition; so these had escaped the melting-pot. At home and abroad the storehouses of curiosity merchants had been explored to beautify Lady Fareham’s reception-rooms; and in the fading light Angela gazed upon hangings that were worthy of a royal palace, upon Italian crystals and Indian carvings, upon ivory and amber and jade and jasper, upon tables of Florentine mosaic, and ebony cabinets incrusted with rare agates, and upon pictures in frames of massive and elaborate carving, Venetian mirrors which gave back the dying light from a thousand facets, curtains and portières of sumptuous brocade, gold-embroidered, gorgeous with the silken semblance of peacock plumage, done with the needle, from the royal manufactory of the Crown Furniture at the Gobelins.

She passed into an ante-room, with tapestried walls, and a divan covered with raised velvet, a music desk of gilded wood, and a spinet, on which was painted the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. Beyond this there was the dining-room, more soberly though no less richly furnished than the saloon. Here the hangings were of Cordovan leather, stamped and gilded with fleur-de-lys, suggesting a French origin, and indeed these very hangings had been bought by a Dutch Jew dealer in the time of the Fronde, had belonged to the hated minister Mazarin, and had been sold among other of his effects when he fled from Paris: to vanish for a brief season behind the clouds of public animosity, and to blaze out again, an elderly phoenix, in a new palace, adorned with new treasures of art and industry that made royal princes envious.

Angela gazed on all this splendour as one bewildered. In front of that gilded wall, quivering in mid-air, as if it had been painted upon the shaft of light that streamed in from the tall window, her fancy pictured the blood-red cross and the piteous legend, “Lord, have mercy on us!” written in the same blood colour. For herself she had neither horror of the pestilence nor fear of death. Religion had familiarised her mind with the image of the destroyer. From her childhood she had been acquainted with the grave, and with visions of a world beyond the grave. It was not for herself she trembled, but for her sister, and her sister’s children; for Lord Fareham, whose likeness she recalled even at this moment, the grave dark face which Hyacinth had shown her on the locket she wore upon her neck, the face which Sir John said reminded him of Strafford.

“He has just that fatal look,” her father had told her afterwards when they talked of Fareham, “the look that men saw in Wentworth’s face when he came from Ireland, and in his Majesty’s countenance, after Wentworth’s murder.”

While she stood in the dying light, wavering for a moment, doubtful which way to turn — since the room had no less than three tall oak doors, two of them ajar — there came a pattering upon the polished floor, a scampering of feet that were lighter and quicker than those of the smallest child, and the first living creature Angela saw in that silent house came running towards her. It was only a little black-and-tan spaniel, with long silky hair and drooping ears, and great brown eyes, fond and gentle, a very toy and trifle in the canine kingdom; yet the sight of that living thing thrilled her awe-stricken heart, and her tears came thick and fast as she knelt and took the little dog in her arms and pressed him against her bosom, and kissed the cold muzzle, and looked, half laughing, half crying, into the pathetic brown eyes.

“At least there is life near. This dog would not be left in a deserted house,” she thought, as the creature trembled against her bosom and licked the hand that held him.

The pattering was repeated in the adjoining room, and another spaniel, which might have been twin brother of the one she held, came through the half open door, and ran to her, and set up a jealous barking which reverberated in the lofty room, and from within that unseen chamber on the other side of the door there came a groan, a deep and hollow sound, as of mortal agony.

She set down the dog in an instant, and was on her feet again, trembling but alert. She pushed the door a little wider and went into the next apartment, a bedroom more splendid than any bed-chamber her fancy had ever depicted when she read of royal palaces.

The walls were hung with Mortlake tapestries, representing in four great panels the story of Perseus and Andromeda, and the Rape of Proserpine. To her who knew not the old Greek fables those figures looked strangely diabolical. Naked maiden and fiery dragon, flying horse and Greek hero, Demeter and Persephone, hell-god and chariot, seemed alike demonaic and unholy, seen in the dim light of expiring day. The high chimney-piece, with its Oriental jars, blood-red and amber, faced her as she entered the room, and opposite the three tall windows stood the state bed, of carved ebony, the posts adorned with massive bouquets of chased silver flowers, the curtains of wine coloured velvet, heavy with bullion fringes. One curtain had been looped back, showing the amber satin lining, and on this bed of state lay a man, writhing in agony, with one bloodless hand plucking at the cambric upon his bosom, while with the other he grasped the ebony bed-post in a paroxysm of pain.

Angela knew that dark and powerful face at the first glance, though the features were distorted by suffering. This sick man, the sole occupant of a deserted mansion, was her brother-in-law, Lord Fareham. A large high-backed armchair stood beside the bed, and on this Angela seated herself. She recollected the Superior’s injunction just in time to put one of the anti-pestilential lozenges into her mouth before she bent over the sufferer, and took his clammy hand in hers, and endured the acrimony of his poisonous breath. That anxious gaze, the dark yellow complexion, and those great beads of sweat that poured down the pinched countenance too plainly indicated the disease which had desolated London. The Moslem’s invisible plague-angel had entered this palace, and had touched the master with his deadly lance. That terrible Presence, which for the most part had been found among the dwellings of the poor, was here amidst purple and fine linen, here on this bed of state, enthroned in ebony and silver, hung round with velvet and bullion. She needed not to discover the pestilential spots beneath that semi-diaphanous cambric which hung loose upon the muscular frame, to be convinced of the cruel fact. Here, abandoned and alone, lay the master of the house, with nothing better than a pair of spaniels for his companions, and neither nurse nor watcher, wife nor friend, to help him towards recovery, or to comfort his passing soul.

One of the little dogs leapt on the bed, and licked his master’s face again and again, whining piteously between whiles.

The sick man looked at Angela with awful, unseeing eyes, and then burst into a wild laugh —

“See them run, the crop-headed clod-hoppers!” he cried. “Ride after them — mow them down — scatter the rebel clot-pols! The day is ours!” And then, passing from English to French, from visions of Lindsey and Rupert and the pursuit at Edgehill to memories of Condé and Turenne, he shouted with the voice that was like the sound of a trumpet, “Boutte-selle! boutte-selle! Monte à cheval! monte à cheval! à l’arme, à l’arme!

He was in the field of battle again. His wandering wits had carried him back to his first fight, when he was a lad in his father’s company of horse, following the King’s fortunes, breathing gunpowder, and splashed with human blood for the first time — when it was not so long since he had been blooded at the death of his first fox. He was a young man again, with the Prince, that Bourbon prince and hero whom he loved and honoured far above any of his own countrymen.

O, la folle entreprise du Prince de Condé,” he sang, waving his hand above his head, while the spaniels barked loud and shrill, adding their clamour to his. He raved of battles and sieges. He was lying in the trenches, in cold and rain and wind — in the tempestuous darkness. He was mounting the breach at Dunkirk against the Spaniard; at Charenton in a hand-to-hand fight with Frondeurs. He raved of Châtillon and Chanleu, and the slaughter of that fatal day when Condé mourned a friend and each side lost a leader. Fever gave force to gesture and voice; but in the midst of his ravings he fell back, half fainting, upon the pillow, his heart beating in a tumult which fluttered the lace upon the bosom of his shirt, while the acrid drops upon his brow gathered thicker than poisonous dew. Angela remembered how last year in Holland these death-like sweats had not always pointed to a fatal result, but in some cases had afforded an outlet to the pestilential influences, though in too many instances they had served only to enfeeble the patient, the fire of disease still burning, while the damps of approaching dissolution oozed from the fevered body — flame within and ice without.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:31